You can log onto JetBlue Airways' website through your smartphone in an average of 4.237 seconds. Log onto United Airlines, and it'll take you 18.284 seconds to load the page.
Researchers at Compuware, a company that monitors website and application performance, say those 14.047 seconds might as well be hours.
More travelers are depending on their mobile phones to book and track their travel, and a slow mobile site with glitches could quickly turn them off.
Nearly 60 percent of Web users say they expect a website to load on their mobile device in three seconds or less, according to an Equation Research study commissioned by Compuware. If they have trouble loading a site, nearly half would be unlikely to return to it, and 57 percent wouldn't recommend it to others.
"What organizations are learning is that the performance of mobile devices is critical to their revenue," says Eric Schurr, a senior vice president at Compuware.
Although mobile technology is newer than personal computers, people expect more of mobile sites. "They're on the run, they're on the go, they're waiting in line, they have a minute, and they want to get something done," Schurr says.
For a third-consecutive year, JetBlue has earned top honors in Compuware's Best of the Web Mobile Leader category. United Airlines was at the bottom.
"As technology has advanced, customers have become more accustomed to faster products and richer experiences," says Jonathan Stephen, senior producer of mobile products for JetBlue. "It's the job of every organization to make sure they're leveraging it."
Compuware's rankings were based on the Web pages' loading time, their availability and consistency. Consistency measures variations in loading times across geographic regions, computer networks and times of day. Among the findings:
•Airlines rounding out the top 10 in mobile site performance were Delta Air Lines , AirTran Airways (which is merging with Southwest Airlines ) and American Airlines. All had response times below seven seconds. Of the 26 travel companies ranked, Southwest landed in the No. 24 spot.
•The top hotel mobile site belonged to Best Western Hotels with an average response time of 4.954 seconds. InterContinental Hotels Group had the lowest-ranked site, with an average time of 9.728 seconds.
•Among car-sharing and rental-car sites, Zipcar had the highest-ranked site, with an average response time of 7.039 seconds. Avis had the lowest-ranked with a response time of 17.876 seconds.
Mobile transactions make up a small share of revenue, but travel companies say they're on the upswing.
At Best Western, there was a 145 percent increase in revenue from bookings on the mobile site from 2010 to 2011, says Scott Gibson, the company's chief information officer.
Many travel companies are upgrading their mobile sites.
Alaska Airlines on Monday launched a new mobile site that lets travelers check in, pay to check bags and choose seats. JetBlue last month launched a redesigned site to book flights, check flight status and check in. In September, United revamped its mobile site, replacing it with the Continental.com mobile site, as part of their merger.